If you are finding it difficult to decide whether you should support the practice of death penalty or oppose it, you should go through this compilation of pro death penalty arguments often put forth by those who feel that it’s a necessity for a crime-free society.
I support the death penalty because I believe, if administered swiftly and justly, capital punishment is a deterrent against future violence and will save other innocent lives.
― George W. Bush
When the President of the United States speaks, the whole world listens, which is exactly what happened when former President George W. Bush spoke in the favor of death penalty.
A controversial issue nonetheless, death penalty or capital punishment has left the world divided. On one side, we have people armed with pro death penalty arguments who argue that it’s a necessity if we are to ensure that a crime-free society prevails. On the other, we have people who believe that it is against humanity and thus, should be abolished.
If death penalty statistics are to be believed, around 90 percent of the total death sentences come from the Asian countries.
The data collected by Amnesty International reveals that 22 countries carried out death sentences in 2013.
China has the highest execution rate in the world (though the data is not revealed officially), followed by Iran and Iraq.
The United States and India―the two largest democracies in the world―continue to follow the practice, with the US having carried out 35 executions in 2014.
In the United States, capital punishment is deemed legal in 32 states. Since 1976, 1,403 executions have been carried out in the country, with Texas (522), Oklahoma (112), and Virginia (110) accounting for more than half of the cases.
Arguments in Favor of Death Penalty
So, is the death penalty really a necessity for crime-free society? Does this form of punishment really serve the purpose? If its pros and cons are weighed, do its pros have an edge over its cons? If the arguments put forth by people in its support are to be believed, it’s surely necessary if we are to do away with some of the most heinous crimes that we often hear about.
It Acts as a Deterrent
The foremost argument put forth by pro death penalty activists is that it serves as a deterrent for others. The fear of death affects everybody; criminals are no exception. If they realize that committing a serious crime will take them to the gallows, they are bound to think twice before acting. This argument is supported by statistics which reveal that the crime rate in countries where this form of punishment exists is far less compared to those countries where it has been abolished.
Abolitionists may refute these claims and argue that there is no ’empirical evidence’ to suggest that the same acts as a deterrent. But then, there is no ’empirical evidence’ to suggest that it doesn’t act as a deterrent either. Maybe it doesn’t act as a deterrent for hardened criminals or for those who act in passion, but it is most likely to act as a deterrent for those who plan a murder after carefully taking into account all the possibilities.
It’s Also About Justice
With criminal acts, like homicide, rape, etc., becoming more and more frequent in the society, only death penalty can ensure justice for victims and their families. In most of these cases, the criminals are no first-time offenders to get deterred by the fear of capital punishment. If they have committed a crime, they have to be brought to justice. Those in the support of this practice also argue that a person who kills someone doesn’t have the right to live.
Once again, abolitionists will be quick to retort with the Gandhian quote, An eye for eye will make the whole world blind, which is sad, because it undermines the difference between the convict and victim. It is perhaps easier to forget someone who is already dead, doesn’t matter if he or she was a victim of a heinous crime.
The Myth of It Being Costly
Is it justified that a person who has committed a serious crime lives in a prison with all the basic amenities at the cost of taxpayers money? The cost incurred on housing inmates who are sentenced life imprisonment goes into millions. By sentencing these convicts to death, this money, which will be otherwise spent on their leisure, can be used for a better purpose. Besides, most prisons are already filled to the capacity. By sentencing convicts to life, we will only put more pressure on the treasury.
Many people argue that death penalty is costlier than life term. Whether it really is, is again debatable. Proponents of death penalty argue that it’s the opposition to the practice that is making it costlier. They argue that the legal proceedings are often stalled for years together as a result of multiple layers of appeal, which, in turn, adds to the overall cost.
It Restores Faith in the Judicial System
If an individual involved in a crime as heinous as homicide, is not given harsh punishment, people are bound to lose faith in the judicial system. As much as it is about the closure to victims family, it is also about assurance to the society. Any deviation from this will add to layman’s belief that the judicial system is more sympathetic towards a criminal than towards the victim or society. Like we said earlier, it’s perhaps easier to forget someone who is already dead.
It Saves Several Lives
The most prominent argument in favor of this practice is that it guarantees our safety. There have been numerous instances of criminals committing serious crimes when they are out on parole. More importantly, life term doesn’t guarantee that the said criminal will never commit any crime. In fact, there have been instances of convicts who are serving life term, killing prison guards or fellow inmates. Only capital punishment can guarantee that the criminal will never repeat his heinous crime. And when we say capital punishment saves lives, we don’t just mean lives of prospective victims, but also mean lives of prospective convicts―in this case, by acting as a deterrent.
While these arguments sound pretty convincing, one also has to take into account the arguments against this practice when deciding whether it is a just form of punishment or not. You might argue that life in itself is sacred, but how do you choose someone who has been convicted of snatching someone’s life over someone who has lost his life?
Post Script: At times, in capital punishment-related cases, the entire focus is shifted to the rights of the person convicted. It is perhaps this outlook that prompted Judge M L Tahaliyani―the judge in the 26/11 trial in India―to state that Courts must remember not just rights of the criminal but also the victims whilst sentencing Ajmal Kasab to death.